Even with the tournament shortened by 18 holes due to weather, it still took overtime yet again to crown a winner at the eGolf Tour's Palmetto Hall Championship presented by Westin Hilton Head Island on Saturday.
Ohio resident Ethan Tracy survived cold conditions and a challenging golf course to post a final-round even-par 72, and then bested Mike Furci with a par on the first playoff hole to win his first event as a professional on the Cupp Course at Palmetto Hall.
Tracy's victory, sealed with a 3-foot putt for par, marked the fifth consecutive time the eGolf event has been decided in extra holes. It's a stretch that covers the entire history of the tournament, which was shortened to 54 holes this year by heavy rains on Wednesday.
The triumph comes less than two years after the former Arkansas standout turned pro, and promises better things to come.
"It's just great," Tracy said of the win. "I've been working practically my whole life to accomplish this. So hopefully it will give me some confidence to get to the next level."
Both Tracy and Furci finished at 9-under par after posting matching fours in the final hole of regulation, forcing them to replay the difficult par-4 18th hole to settle the matter. The second time proved anything but a charm for Furci, who pushed his drive into a lagoon that guards the right side of the fairway.
With his competitor in trouble, Tracy found the fairway with his tee shot just as he had minutes before, and then proceeded to two-putt from about 30 feet to claim the tournament. In the process, he banked the $13,000 winner's share, and denied Furci what would have been his first eGolf title as well.
"I just wanted to play the hole solid; find the fairway and hit the green, and then if he beats me with a birdie, that's what happens," Tracy said. "Fortunately the two putts won it. I'm very satisfied. I just wish I hit the first putt a little better so I didn't have that knee-knocker on the second putt."
For his part, Furci, who entered the final round trailing 36-hole leader Travis Ross by two shots, survived a roller-coaster back nine to post a final-round 1-under 71, which was just good enough to force the playoff that seemed all-too predictable given the tournament's history.
The New York native chipped in for eagle on the par-5 15th hole to take the lead from Tracy, but then gave the advantage right back with a double bogey on the par-3 16th when his tee shot found water. Furci, however, showed his mettle with a rebound birdie on the 17th hole to reach the 54th tee box all square with the eventual champion.
Like Tracy, Furci saw a good look at birdie finish just a couple feet shy on the 18th green, and then his hopes of winning the event were swallowed in a watery grave just some 15 minutes later. As a pretty nice consolation, Furci walked away from Palmetto Hall with $8,000 for his second-place finish.
"I just pushed my drive a little, and it caught the wind and rode it into the hazard," the former Florida Gator said. "It just wasn't a good swing. But I had a good week, and I was happy with the way I bounced back on 17. But Tracy played well, too, and was just better at the end."
Ross, who played exceptionally well during the first 36 holes on the Cupp Course, shot a 3-over 75 to fall out of contention late on Saturday. Playing the front nine in cold, wet conditions, the Charlotte resident found trouble early with a double bogey on the third hole after his drive found a water hazard just off the fairway.
The former University of New Mexico star, however, battled to regain a share of the lead with a birdie on the 14th hole only to see things slip away with a disappointing par on the 15th and a deal-breaking bogey on the 16th hole.
"There were some tough pins out there today; it's a good golf course," Ross said. "I was grinding my tail off just to stay in it. I just didn't hit it quite as well as I did the first two days. I really wish I could take back that tee shot on No. 3. I hit it right but I thought it would cover the hazard. Unfortunately it didn't have enough to carry."
While those around him were left to rue lost opportunities and costly miscues, Tracy leaves Hilton Head with the biggest victory of his budding career in tow, and with a ton of confidence that the spring eGolf season, which launched with the Palmetto Hall Championship, will carry him to even greater heights.
"I've been working really hard in the offseason and I knew I had the ability to compete against these guys out here," Tracy said. "Today just shows that hard work is paying off."
eGolf Tour -- Palmetto Hall Championship
At Palmetto Hall, Robert Cupp Course, Hilton Head Island; Par 72; 7,079 yards
(x-won on first playoff hole)
x-Ethan Tracy, Charlotte, NC, $13,000 70-65-72-207 -9
Mike Furci, Sayville, NY, $8,000 69-67-71-207 -9
Travis Ross, Crookston, MN, $6,189 68-66-75-209 -7
Ryan Nelson, Charleston, SC, $4,250 72-70-70-212 -4
Derek Rende, Soddy Daisy, TN, $4,250 71-71-70-212 -4
T.J. Mitchell, Athens, GA, $4,250 72-68-72-212 -4
Seamus Power, Ireland, $4,250 68-69-75-212 -4
Will Collins, Salisbury, NC, $2,700 71-71-71-213 -3
Chris Naegel, Chesterfield, MO, $2,700 67-72-74-213 -3
Adam Stephenson, Greenville, NC, $2,700 68-70-75-213 -3
Drew Weaver, Sea Island, GA, $2,700 69-70-74-213 -3
T.J. Howe, Osceola, PA, $2,300 73-71-70-214 -2
Ryan Gildersleeve, Clearwater, FL, $2,150 69-76-70-215 -1
Chris Thompson, Lawrence, KS, $2,150 68-72-75-215 -1
Taylor Floyd, Forsyth, GA, $1,950 76-69-71-216 E
Peter Malnati, Dandridge, TN, $1,950 72-69-75-216 E
Brendan Kelly, Annapolis, MD, $1,750 71-69-77-217 +1
Steven Fox, Hendersonville, TN, $1,750 68-74-75-217 +1
Brad Miller, Timonium, MD, $1,550 74-69-75-218 +2
Amory Davis, Chadds Ford, PA, $1,550 74-69-75-218 +2
Adam Mitchell, Atlanta, GA, $1,550 73-70-75-218 +2
Brian Hughes, Raleigh, NC, $1,425 71-75-73-219 +3
Greg Doherty, Ontario, Canada, $1,425 75-71-73-219 +3
Fergal Rafferty, Northern Ireland, $1,325 71-74-75-220 +4
Matt Eschenburg, The Woodlands, TX, $1,325 72-72-76-220 +4
Dykes Harbin, Augusta, GA, $1,225 70-74-77-221 +5
Luke Hopkins, Simpsonville, SC, $1,225 69-75-77-221 +5
Tadd Fujikawa, Honolulu, HI, $1,150 74-71-78-223 +7
Jurrian Van der Vaart, Netherlands, $1,100 75-71-79-225 +9
Vince Hatfield, Greenwood, SC, $1,080 72-74-80-226 +10
Atomu Watanabe, Australia, $1,060 71-75-83-229 +13